If there is any must see film this year, it’s writer & director Robert Eggers “The Lighthouse”. A dark and austere black & white hallucinatory nightmare. It truly is a must see big screen cinematic masterpiece. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe give incredible show-stopping performances. Dafoe makes you question why he has never won an Oscar, while Robert Pattinson’s performance reminds you of a young Marlin Brando and deserves his first Oscar nomination. “The Lighthouse” is a spectacular piece of filmmaking on every level. See it on the big screen as you’ll be immersed and rewarded with one of the years absolute finest, most beautiful, maddening and haunting films of the year.
Were only a few weeks away from the end of 2019 and in the past few months, it’s been a real stiff competition in films making the cut for best of the year. Well make room because studio A24 and writer/director Robert Eggers “The Lighthouse”, is making the cut of this year’s best films.
Eggers film is a dark and austere black and white hallucinatory nightmare. A symphony of mythical and supernatural overtones. You go into “The Lighthouse” not knowing what to expect, and that’s one of the many beautiful things about Robert Eggers film. “The LightHouse” truly is must see big screen cinema. It’s one of the most visually striking films you’ll ever see, featuring magnificent performances from the only two leads.
“The Lighthouse” is set in the late 19th century, where “Twilight” and future “Batman” star Robert Pattinson plays a young drifter and lighthouse keeper named Ephraim Wilson. His crabby boss Thomas Wake is played by Willem Dafoe and together, they’re beginning a four-week stint that should be good, honest hard work. Ephraim is quiet, distant, slow to anger even as the quick-tempered, bossy, and very flatulent Thomas shoves him into one menial task after another.
There’s something off about Thomas, and it has more to do with him drinking like a fish and farting up a disgusting, gassy storm. He won’t let Ephraim near the lantern, guarding its light and that of the lighthouse’s upper levels with a strange ferocity. Meanwhile, bad omens are manifest in Ephraim’s weird visions; mermaids and mermaid genitals, hungry seagulls, tentacled sea monsters, and worse.
For it’s two hour run time, Eggers sticks us right between the two men on the claustrophobic island that becomes a malign presence. It’s an island filled with spectral sea gods, squirming tentacles, and unexpected mermaids. The seagulls that fly around the island and haunt the lighthouse-men, turn increasingly hostile, but Dafoe’s Wake warns Winslow to never kill one as they contain the souls of dead sailors.
Robert Eggers, first highly acclaimed horror film “The Witch” put him on the map as one of the masters of the new “arthouse horror” genre that’s helped A24 studio, the prestige outlet for genre filmmaking. While “The Lighthouse” isn’t horror at all, there’s enough gore and suspense to make it classifiable of the genre. The horror here is psychological as we watch Robert Pattinson slowly go mad
Eggers has a unique and beautiful style, opting not to shoot in widescreen, but instead in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio that harkens back to the silent films. Eggers filmed the crisp black and white, 35mm negative film that was stunningly shot by cinematographer Jarin Blaschke.
The black and white film adds a classic film noir effect. While the films of Hitchcock come to mind, most obvious of the bunch is his film “Jamaica Inn”. The square aspect ratio enhances the deepening sense of claustrophobia for the two men.
The only two on-screen for nearly the entirety of the film, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe give incredible show-stopping performances. Dafoe goes bigger and bolder in his work, and makes you question why this man has never received an Oscar yet?! Robert Pattinson has brilliant moments of screen-filling madness as watching his performance reminds you of a young Marlon Brando. There’s no denying his growth as an actor and his willingness to take on challenging films like this one.
We follow Pattinson as anger and desperation start to sink in and he begins to have fantasies of mermaids washed up on the shore. What happens with these mermaids are up to you to discover. The breakdown of his psyche takes a while to sink in, with an hour or so passing before “The Lighthouse” starts to really ratchet up the tension. But the film as a whole moves rather quickly and is never a bore. When Pattinson starts to go crazy, you believe it and this is yet another strong performance for the former “Twilight” star, who’s had one of the most impressive choice of roles and careers outside of the tween vampire series.
Eggers has us questioning the sanity of both men as their relationship unravels and tangles, the pair of them weaving a very messy web. They’re both equally brilliant. The tension is ratcheted by one of the greatest sound designs I’ve ever been privileged to hear. An Oscar nomination is a must for the sound design, along for Dafoe and Pattinson in the acting category. The film is filled with a disturbing foghorn boom that rattles your bones, and mixes in hauntingly but beautifully with composer Mark Corven’s mad design.
You just have to wonder how many possible stories Robert Eggers and his brother Max (who cowrote the script) might have intended to tell? I’m very curious as to what other avenues they had cooked up inside their brains. This easily could have turned into a creature feature, which would also have been phenomenal.
“The Lighthouse” is a descent into madness, a masterful exercise in pure, unnerving atmosphere, shot in rich, inky black-and-white. A stunning piece of work, with two exceptional performances at its heart. “The Lighthouse” is a spectacular piece of filmmaking on every level. See it on the big screen as you’ll be immersed and rewarded with one of the years absolute finest, most beautiful, maddening and haunting films of the year. You’ll find yourself thinking and talking about it long after it’s over.
GRADE: ★★★★1/2☆ (4 & 1/2 out of 5)